This paper provides a reappraisal of the ongoing ICT revolution in historical perspective. Our starting point is the literature on “long waves” and “general purpose technologies” which is still widely used to characterize the long run trends of technological change and economic development since the first industrial revolution. Notwithstanding providing some useful insights, it is argued that this approach is rooted in a too rigid historical chronology linking technological development to economic outcomes. On these grounds, the paper suggests that an interpretative framework based on the notion of first, second and third industrial revolution may offer a more accurate historical account and be more useful for policy analysis.
working paper 5/2020